TODAY, we are ending our beautiful Talk series called Wilderness: Lessons and Inspiration form the Book of Numbers.

For Talk 8 today, we will be preaching the message Discern God’s Heart.

Yes, discern God’s heart.

And we shall read from Numbers 26:3-4:

At the very start of our Talk series, we learned that this book is called Numbers because God asked Moses to number the Israelites and conduct a census.

Now, this Bible passage we just read is about the second census that they conducted. Because many died already and they were preparing to enter the Promised Land. And they were preparing to divide the land among all the tribes of Israel.

Question: Do you want to receive blessings from God? Yes! Then be counted.

Be part of the census of Jesus followers and receive your blessings from God.

Let us glorify His Word

once more:

Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet And a Light unto my path. We glorify You Lord God for Your Word. Hallelujah!

Yes, as I said a while ago, the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness— oh, it was very dangerous, very difficult. And so many died. And yet, after doing a second census, they counted more than 600,000 Israelites who are about to enter the Promised Land.

The book of Numbers is actually teaching us that we should regularly count.

We should regularly make census of all of our blessings.

Because the problem with many of us is this: We focus too much on the negative. We fail to count our blessings. We fail to make a census of our blessings because we focus too much on the negative incidents happening in our life— sickness, death, failures, disappointments… And when we do that, we fail to see the blessings.

Yes, of course, we will experience trials and difficulties. Because with our trials, God is pruning us. Pruning is difficult. Pruning is hard. Pruning is stressful. But pruning is essential. So that we will bear more fruits. So that we will be stronger. So that our faith in the Lord will be greater and stronger.

So, when you are diagnosed with diabetes, for example, God is pruning you.

Perhaps, God wants you to live a more healthy and more active lifestyle.

When you get buried in debt because you are a shopping addict, perhaps God is pruning you so that you will be a steward of your financial blessing.

If you got separated from your spouse, for example, God is pruning you.

Perhaps, He wants you to, you know, look at yourself again and change what needs to be changed.

Count Your Blessings

So, my dear Brothers and Sisters, make this your practice: Count your blessings.

Focus on the positive in your life. Do not focus too much on the negative and you will realize you have so many blessings that you have taken for granted.

In our study of the book of Numbers, we learned from Chapters 1 to 25 that God was actually teaching the Israelites how to live, and how to survive in that difficult, dangerous wilderness.

As we end our study, we will learn that from Chapter 26 up to the very end the book of Numbers that God is actually teaching the Israelites how to live in the Promised Land. So, God was giving so many laws to the Israelites to guide them on how to live in the Promised Land.

So, this part of the book of

Numbers is actually teaching us the spiritual practice of discernment.

Question: Who wants to be a disciple of Jesus? Raise your hand. Now I know all of us, we want to be followers of Jesus.

But I’m telling you, Jesus followers, it’s not enough to love God. You need to know how He Wants to be loved.

We are Jesus followers. So, we must practice spiritual discernment – so that we will know how best to love, how best to obey, how best to worship our God.

Nineteen years ago, I said Yes to God. I decided that I want to be a disciple of Jesus. I decided that I want to be a Jesus follower. And in my faith journey, God led me to the Three Major Discernments in My Life.

Discernment No. 1: God wanted me to leave my homosexual lifestyle behind. And I did that. I said Yes to God. And by His grace alone, I’ve been living a life of chastity and sexual purity. It’s grace alone.

And now, I have also discerned that God wants me to proclaim the beauty, the complementarity of sex and gender and to defend all of us from the colonization of gender ideology.

That’s what I am doing now.

Discernment No. 2 for my life:

God wants me to live out my faith in all aspects of my life—even in my profession. I’m an OB-GYN– Obstetrics- Gynecology—doctor.

So, it was a difficult process for me. But I’ve decided that I won’t prescribe artificial contraception.

I won’t do ligation. I won’t do artificial insemination, and even in-vitro fertilization. Because they contradict the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Yes, I lose patients because of my decision. Yes, I lose income because of my decision. But it’s okay.

And I have also discerned that God wants me to continue fighting against the legalization of abortion here in the Philippines.

Discernment No. 3: The third major discernment for my life is God wants me to have a healthy body and a healthy lifestyle.

Well…Can you please shout: Anyare? What happened?

That’s the problem…Well, I’m still a work in progress, right?

God is not yet done with me. So, pray for me so that I’ll have a healthy body.

My dear Friends, again, I ask you this question:

Do you want to be a Jesus follower?

You know what to do: Discern God’s Heart.

That’s what you have to do. Discern God’s Heart. But for you to be able to do that, please stop asking this question: What is best for me?

Stop doing that. Because you won’t discern God’s

Heart it you keep on asking that question What is best for me?

Instead, you should ask this question:

If you really want to discern God’s Heart, you have to spend the rest of your life answering that question.

New Situations, New Laws

The last part of the book of Numbers also tells us about the story of Zelophehad— an Israelite who had no sons.

He had only daughters. And they had a problem because the law of the Israelites back then, the daughters may not inherit anything from the father. Only the sons may.

So, when Zelophehad died, his daughters went to Moses and said this:

They had no law back then regarding this particular issue. And God gave them all the laws they needed, right? But when God heard the cry of the daughters of Zelophehad, this is what He told Moses:

The Lord adjusted. The Lord gave them a new law because of that new situation.

This is what the book of Numbers is teaching us: New situations require much more than knowing God’s laws.

What Is in God’s Heart?

I met a woman who was abandoned by her husband 20 years ago. And the husband had another family. So, this woman became a single mother and raised her four children all by herself.

And now, 20 years after, the husband is sick and he is reconciling with his wife. He wants to move back into their house — to spend the rest of his days there.

What should the wife do? This woman is still discerning God’s Heart regarding this matter.

I also met a father who was offered a job in Taiwan with a salary of P50,000.00 a month— and he is earning P35,000.00 here in the Philippines. So, he is discerning: “Is it worth it to go to Taiwan for additional P15,000.00— but I will leave my family behind… And my kids are still very young…”

He is still discerning God’s plan for his life.

I have a friend—a public servant, a government employee– who is being offered a bribe… This company is trying to bribe him because the company wants to win in a bidding of government contracts.

And my friend is having some financial difficulties right now. So, he’s really very tempted to accept the bribe. I hope he doesn’t accept it. But he’s very tempted to accept the bribe. He is discerning… We know what God’s Heart regarding this. But he is discerning and praying he won’t give in to the temptation.

What am I saying?

Every single day we are faced with so many issues, so many concerns, so many decisions to make. And we have to discern God’s Heart each and every time.

We need to ask our self always: What is God’s plan for my life?

To help us even more, please all welcome Bro. Bo Sanchez!

What’s Good?

BO SANCHEZ: We now reach this point where there were two tribes – there were 12 tribes of Israel—and there were two tribes that had a request. But it’s not like a request—it’s more of a demand.

We talk about these two tribes – the tribe of Reuben and the tribe of Gad.

Let’s read Numbers 32: 1-2:

So, they had a lot of livestock, they saw this piece of land, and they said, “Oh, perfect for us.”

So, what’s happening here?

God is giving the Promised Land to all the 12 tribes. There were two tribes who said, “We do not want the Promised Land. We want the land beside the Promised Land.”

So, that was the situation.

Now, here is the discerning question: Are they doing right? Are they doing the Will of God by doing that?

When you read the Bible, you’ll note there seems to be no answer. Why?

This is a hermeneutic lesson I’m giving to you. Hermeneutics interpretation— how to interpret.

What’s Right?

Biblical authors usually—sometimes they do not do this—but usually, they do not give a commentary on the morals, on the ethics of the behavior of the characters in the story. The authors will just tell you what the characters are doing.

The Reubenites and the Gadites, they asked Moses, “If this is okay with you, may me just stay here in this land. This is perfect for us. We’ve got livestock—sheep and oxen, stuff. This will be perfect for us. It’s not in the Promised Land—it’s just beside it.

Katabi lang naman, e. Pwede ba dito na kami?

Question: Are they doing okay? And again, the Biblical author is silent—does not tell you whether they’re doing good or right…

So, we go on:

Moses, he asked this question in Verse 6:

So, that was the main concern of Moses: “You’re going to stay here—in this land, outside the Promised Land– How about the 10 tribes? They are going to be fighting, trying to clear the Promised Land, they are going into battle with all the tribes there, while you’re sitting pretty there…”

I want you to listen to this answer. Numbers 32: 16-18 says:

Are they good or are they good? Are they okay? They seem to be good.

They’re saying, “Op, op. op, Moses, if that’s your concern, we’re going to live here beside the Promised Land, we’re going to build sheepfolds, we’re going to build cities for our little ones… But we’re going to stand beside all the other

10 tribes and clear the Land, and battle with their enemies, and when everybody is settled in the Promised Land, that’s when we will return to our land—outside, just beside the Promised Land.”

So, discerning question: Are they okay, or are they not okay? Hmmm, very nuance. It’s…oh, I don’t know… we don’t know… The Biblical author keeps us in suspense… Or, does he?

The Biblical Design Pattern

The Biblical author would give hints into what he’s thinking. Because if you really want to know whether the Reubenites and Gadites did right or wrong, whether they did the Will of God or not, you have to go through the Biblical storyline. You keep on reading. We’re in the book of Numbers. Read the book of Deuteronomy, and then keep on reading all throughout the Old Testament, and then you will see: Aha!

Then you know…

You see, decisions have consequences. Every decision that you make in your life will have consequences. If you make bad decisions, you will get bad consequences.

And so, if you want to know whether the Reubenites or the Gadites— whether they did the Will of God, you go through the storyline of the Biblical story.

But even if you do not finish the storyline – and I’m going to tell you now— they did suffer bad consequences. Okay. But even if you did not read the entire storyline of the Bible, you actually already have a hint of the answer—that they were not actually doing the Will of God. Why?

We talked here about design patterns some many, many weeks ago. And we said repeatedly that Biblical authors use design patterns.

And one of the very clear design patterns when somebody is not doing the Will of God is this: You see, the Biblical authors, they use, always, Genesis 1, 2, and 3 as the lens when they wrote the story. And in Genesis 1, 2, and 3, there are stories there that are like a template. And so, when Adam and Eve, they fell, there’s a design pattern there.

Eve saw the fruit and took it.

They Saw…They Took

Here, you found it. It’s here. It’s clearer in Hebrew, of course, than in English, but let’s read again the verse that we read a while ago, Numbers 32 (above).

They saw and they took. Like Eve saw the fruit being offered by the Serpent, and took it.

All throughout Scripture, you find that design pattern. Everybody say, “sawtook.”

You’ve got Abraham. Again, very interesting. Abraham and Sarah did not have a child, could not have a child.

Sarah says, “Get my maid servant Hagar.”

So, when the Biblical story was telling that incident, that scenario, the author does not tell you: And then Abraham did something bad and got Hagar.

No. The author wants you to pick it up. And we know through the Biblical storyline that bad consequences happened because of that decision.

But, same design: Abraham saw Hagar and took.

King David. King David in his palace. While everybody was at war—they’re fighting armies, King David, one lazy afternoon, was strolling at the roof of his palace. And lo! He sees Bathsheba. What was she doing? Bathing. That’s why her name is Bathsheba. ☺

And then the Biblical author uses the same design pattern: David saw Bathsheba…

Just Somewhere in the Middle

And so, the Reubenites and the Gadites, they saw the land, and they took.

It’s a design pattern. The Biblical author is giving you a hint: “Looks like there’s something wrong here… Maybe they’re doing something wrong…”

What were they doing wrong?

It seemed as though they were more committed to their preferred land— than to God.

Did I just punch you on the solar plexus?

There are times in our life when we are more attached to what we want– the blessing— than to the Blesser Himself.

There are times in our life when are so stubborn — when we insist…

You know, to be fair, the Gadites and the Reubenites, they were not like the ancestors. No. The ancestors of these people, they were on an all-out rebellion. They did not want God. They did not.

No. The Reubenites and Gadites were not like that. They were somehow there in the middle.

They are like: “We want You, Lord. We really want You. But, but please, this land…”

God was giving them the Promised Land. And they did not want it. They wanted their version of the Promised Land.

That’s when we get into trouble. When we trust in our wisdom, and not in God’s wisdom. When we are like, “We want this, Lord. This is the best for us.” What is more advantageous for us?”

You know what? A three-year-old can ask that question. It’s a good question. It’s a fair question. But it’s not enough to ask the question, “What is best for me?”

Because God is a God who does not live in three dimensions. He is not limited to your height, to your width, or to your length. He is a God with million dimensions. And He sees the future. And he sees what’s a million years from now. And He is a God who knows what is best for you, and for your neighbor, and best for your child, and best for your grandchild.

God sees everything and He knows what is best for you.

War: Man vs. God

All throughout the Biblical story, there is a war. We read it in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers.

What’s the war?

It’s the war between man’s stubborn will…We’re pretty stubborn, yes or no? We are so stubborn, we are so proud, we are so immature, we like what we want and then we fight for it, and we compromise, and we insist. We are more committed with what we want than with God Himself. And I am telling you, this is crazy. You find it all through the Biblical stories. We insist.

So, the first force of this war is man’s stubborn will.

But there’s another force in this battle and you find it here all throughout Scripture.

It’s really funny, because the Gadites and the Reubenites, they wanted a land a bit outside the Promised Land. And you find a God – if you read through Deuteronomy, and you find all the way to the Prophets, you will find a God who does not reject totally—but keeps on saying, “Come back…”

So, in their unfaithfulness, God remained faithful. And in Deuteronomy, you find a God who says –okay, I mean, you don’t see this text but you kind of like see this in the story—where God says, “I will still allow the Eden-like blessing to flow out of the Promised Land.”

There’s still this God who bends, and waits, and, you know, just tries to find a way to reach you.

All throughout Scripture there is a war: between man’s stubborn will and God’s stubborn Love. And I want you to know there’s a clear winner to this war in this book. And the clear winner is that God’s stubborn Love is stronger than man’s stubborn will. He will keep on reaching out to you.

He will keep on saying, “Come here, come back to me.”

Time for Discernment

When I was 30 years old, I was discerning what I wanted to do with my life. I was thinking… I was attracted to married life, but I was attracted to single life… I was torn… you know…

But I said to myself, if I would get married, I do not want to be like some missionaries who got married, and didn’t have money. And I said, no, no. If I’m going to get married, I’m going to be a millionaire missionary. I want to keep on serving the Lord without any care, or money will no longer be an issue. I just had that in my mind.

And so, I went through discernment,

I struggled with it… Discerning the Will of God is very difficult especially for the major decisions of your life. But I said, “Yes, Lord…”

I remember going up a chapel, up a mountain, and I took a retreat for seven days, and I brought with two important guides: a Bible and a wise Jesuit priest. And he led me into that discernment.

So, in that retreat, oh, my gosh, I said, “Lord God, okay…”

This is the thing: When you go into discernment, do not become like the Reubenites and the Gadites. They enter the Presence of God with attachments already. And that’s not good.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola would say this: that if you want to discern the Will of God, you come empty. You do not come with biases. Because they will color your decision-making. You do not confuse the end and the means. Do not be attached to the means. Be attached to God.

God is the only end. Everything else is the means.

I remember on the third day of that retreat, oh, my gosh. It was such a struggle. I was lying down on the floor of the chapel. I was drenched in sweat– my whole body. Every ebb of my energy drained out of my body.

I was struggling, struggling… to be detached… to be clear…

My Blank Check for God

On the seventh day, I felt I was free.

I felt, on the seventh day of that retreat,

I remember, I said, “Lord, what do you want? What do you want for my life? That’s what I want.”

I felt I was free from attachment.

It was like I was giving God – and I love this illustration—I was giving God a blank check. I signed it already.

And I said, “You put the figure, Lord. You tell me what You want for my life.”

I think that’s something I’m inviting all of you to do today. To sign a blank check and then to give it to God, and say, “Lord, You tell me what to do.

No attachments. No biases. I just want You. You tell me what to do.”

Do not become like the Reubenites. Do not become like the Gadites who were more committed to their preferred land than to God Himself.

You say, “Lord, Your Will. That’s what’s best for me and my family. Your Will.”

Are you ready to do that right now?

Of course, after the seventh day, and I gave that blank check to the Lord, it became clear what I wanted to do and what God wanted me to do.

I went to my priest friend who was leading me in that retreat and I said, “Father, this is what I believe God wants me to do.”

He smiled, and he said, “Go for it.”

And 25 years later, here, we are: Marowe and I are celebrating our Wedding Anniversary this year.

I am an entrepreneur, and God has blessed our businesses, and the storyline of following God and obeying God– in the midst of all the trials—

God has blessed.

Jesus’ Blank Check

Let me end with how the stubborn Love of God defeated man’s stubborn will.

He did it—all throughout Scripture, all throughout the Old Testament.

But then God had a checkmate move. Because we can follow Moses, and we can follow Abraham, and we can follow Isaiah, and we can follow Jeremiah, of course.

But they were all imperfect.

And then He sent His Son Jesus who, in the Garden of Gethsemane, gave a blank check to His Father.

He said, “Your Will be done, not mine.” That is Jesus.

And today, Jesus says, “You can’t do it on your own. It’s okay. It’s difficult to be detached. But I will be with you. I will help you.”

Write that blank check to God our Father.

Put your hand over your chest, ask Jesus for help. He died on the Cross, nailed His Self Will on that Cross. Nailed it.

Because He wanted God’s Will.

And that’s what we need to do. As we are standing before the Father, ask Him for help to be able to write that blank check. And to surrender all attachments. So that you will be very free to do what He wants You to do.

Everybody, say, “Jesus, help me. Help me to write that blank check, and to sign it. Help me to tell You I will do Your Will.”

Your Blank Check

Let’s all make a decision. Are you ready?

For some of you it’s the first time you’re making this decision and to give a blank check to God. Sign it with your name. If you’re ready, let’s do it.

For some of you it’s re-surrendering of your life to the Lord. You’ve done this last year, five years ago, ten, 20, 30, years ago. I don’t know when, but we surrender today. This is the moment you’re standing before the Presence of God in His throne room. I want you to get that check in your mind and in your heart. I want you to sign it. Sign it. That’s right, sign it with your name and then give it to the Lord.

May I invite you to symbolize this by lifting a hand, lifting an arm to the Lord, and imagine that you are giving that check to the Lord. That blank check. And you say this prayer with me. If you are ready, say it:

Lord, I’m giving You my life, my heart, my mind, my emotions, my imagination, my commitments, my attachments, my future. I’m yours.

Your Will be done. Not mine. Your Will. I follow You. I follow You. I follow You.

Published by THE FEAST (July  2, 2023)


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